Market sizing: How big is the #wearables market today?

How big is the #wearables market today, how fast is it growing, and what will it be worth by 2018? These seem to be the billion dollar questions in the wearable technology space right now.

And it looks like nobody’s really sure … although you could spend a lot of money buying all the reports out there, in a bid to find out.

Part of the problem: Many of the early leaders are privately-held, and therefore not bound to report actual sales out or shipment numbers on a quarterly basis. This applies to firms such as Pebble with its smartwatch, Fitbit and Jawbone with their wristbands.

By way of comparison, public companies like Intel – which is making a big play to be inside the wearables space – report quarterly shipment numbers. This makes it easier to quantify the market size.

For wearable technologies, the publicly-available numbers so far vary wildly – from between just over 1m and 22m devices sold in 2013, to estimates of between 130m and 180m devices in the market by 2018. That’s a big delta.

Here’s a summary of some estimates – mostly from market research firms:

* A whitepaper from IHS published last September predicted that microelectromechanical systems (aka MEMS, or the core technology within all wearables, including fitness trackers, watches and glasses) will sell around 50 million units in 2014, rising past 180 million annually in 2018, but with the real “crossing the chasm” coming only in 2015.

* In January 2014, estimates published in the Visual Networking Index by tech giant Cisco pointed to a total of 177 million devices  in the market by 2018. However, as The Register comments, 2013 sales of Apple’s iPhone and iPad can easily beat that.

* The 177m devices appears to be a popular figure – back in the summer of 2012, a GigaOm report stated: “ABI Research estimates the global market for wearables in health and fitness could reach 170 million devices by 2017.” The actual report is behind a paywall.

In December 2013, UK-based research outfit Juniper Research predicted that the real number is “13o million by 2018” when it comes to wearable devices.

Meanwhile Transparency Market Research issued a press release in January stating that “the global wearable technology market stood at USD 750.0 million in 2012 and is expected to reach USD 5.8 billion in 2018, at a CAGR of 40.8 percent from 2012 to 2018.” This correlates with a report published in 2012 by another firm, IMS Research, which stated that the wearables market would exceed US $6Bn by 2016.

An even more optimistic (and very precise-sounding) number for 2018 comes from a report published last May by another market research firm, MarketsAndMarkets, which predicted “the market was worth $2.7 billion in revenue in 2012 and is expected to reach $8.3 billion in 2018, growing at an estimated combined annual growth rate of 17.71% from 2013 to 2018”. The full report is yours for US $4650. And if you have a further $4595 then why not download the report from Mariya Spears at (yes, another) market research firm MarketResearchMoz. This “covers the global wearable technology market size and forecast from 2012 to 2018” but rather alarmingly doesn’t list early smart wristband leaders Fitbit or Jawbone among the “major players” in its executive summary.

For the most conservative estimate of all refer to market research firm Canalys, whose December 2013 press release issued simultaneously in Palo Alto, Shanghai, Singapore and, er, Reading (UK) stated: “Smart wearable band shipments to grow by more than 500% between the first and second half of 2013”. So far, so good. However, Canalys is expecting “well over 500%” growth in the number of wearables shipped between the first and second halves of 2013, but only estimated that 200k shipped in the first half, so this means a second half total in 2013 of a cool million devices. That’s a long way off the 22m estimated by Cisco.

Somewhat ironically, this is all happening even before we’ve even got a precise definition on exactly what wearable technology is – over on Wikipedia there’s still a debate about whether or not “wearable technology” should be merged with “wearable computer”.

What’s your opinion? How big is the market today, and how big will it be in 2014/15? Add your comment.

/WTW

6 Responses to Market sizing: How big is the #wearables market today?

  1. […] How big is the #wearables market today, how fast is it growing, and what will it be worth by 2018? These seem to be the billion dollar questions in the wearable technology space right now. And it l…  […]

  2. […] IDC’s press release predicts that shipments of wearables will reach 19.2 million worldwide in 2o14 – and accelerate rapidly to 118 millon (per year) in 2018. At last, new focus in the so-far wild world of market sizing predictions. […]

  3. […] Market sizing: How big is the #wearables market today? […]

  4. […] IDC’s press release predicts that shipments of wearables will reach 19.2 million worldwide in 2o14 – and accelerate rapidly to 118 millon (per year) in 2018. At last, new focus in the so-far wild world of market sizing predictions. […]

  5. […] Market sizing: How big is the #wearables market today? […]

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